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Fashion Designer Career Guide

Are you creative and have an interest in fashion? Do you want a fast-paced, glamorous and competitive career? If YES, then we think you may be suited to a career as a fashion designer!

Fashion designers create original, unique and on trend clothing, accessories and footwear. They will research and predict fashion trends, sketch designs, select fabrics and patterns, review samples and give instructions on how to make the products. To become a fashion designer, you will need a  bachelors degree in fashion design or fashion merchandising.

Creating something that didn’t previously exist is intoxicating and addictive. It’s kind of like having kids. First there’s an idea. Then over time it turns into this amazing thing that exists, and you are its creator. Once you’ve been bitten by the design bug, you’re a lifer.

Jennifer Aldrich

Fashion Designer Career Ratings

Income

Career
Growth

Personal Growth

Contribution

Influence

Job Profiles

Real-Life Fashion Designer Job Profiles

Below is a list of links to anonymous job profiles of REAL PEOPLE who have filled out our survey and offered to share their insights with our users about their job in the Fashion Designer field.
ID Job Title Gender Age Earnings City & State Date
32984 Designer Male 50 $30,000 Brooklyn, NY 01/01/2010

Overview

What a fashion designer actually does

A fashion designer is responsible for creating original, unique and on trend clothing, accessories and footwear. Fashion designers will research and predict fashion trends, sketch designs, select fabrics and patterns, review samples and give instructions on how to make the products. Often, fashion designers will work in a team with other designers, where they are overseen by a creative director. They can speclialize in clothing, footwear or accessories. Or, they may create designs for all three. Regardless of their specialization, the typical duties and responsibilities of a fashion designer include:

  • Studying fashion trends and predicting designs that will appeal to consumers
  • Based on their research, deciding on a theme for a collection
  • Using computer-aided design (CAD) programs to create designs
  • Visiting manufacturers or trade shows to get samples of fabrics that can be used for each garment or accessory
  • Presenting designs to creative directors
  • Showcasing their ideas in fashion or trade shows
  • Marketing/selling designs to clothing retailers or to consumers
  • Overseeing the final production of their designs

Why they are needed

Although a career in fashion design seems glamorous and alluring, it is also quite important on many levels. If you are a fashion designer, you are responsible for representing and defining various social groups through clothing. Even though the set field of fashion is relatively new, garment construction has existed for thousands of years. Today, fashion designers bring culture to life, experiment with new materials, and implore labor to bring vision into fruition.

Every modern culture wears clothes. We wear them for protection, for modesty, for comfort and for style. Fashion designers play a monumental part in clothes design. They ensure they meet all these requirements, ensuring that clothes are functional, practical and of course, stylish.

In the modern world, there is more emphasis than ever on sustainable fashion. People are wanting to abolish fast fashion and are focusing on ways to create sustainable clothes. Fashion designers are crucial for ensuring that the materials picked are sustainable, but also fit for purpose.

Pros and cons of a career as a fashion designer:

Pros:

  • Fashion designers are normally passionate about fashion and therefore have high career satisfaction
  • There is lots of variety. For example, fashion designers can specialize in menswear, womenswear or accessories (and much more!)
  • Each project will be interesting, different and unique
  • No matter what stage of the project, there is always a level of fun and creativity
  • There are lots of opportunities for travel to meet different clients, suppliers or attend fashion shows
  • It is a sociable career and fashion designers get to meet lots of different people

Cons:

  • Fashion designers may often be forced to work long hours to meet deadlines and to source supplies
  • It is time consuming to research new trends and stay ahead of them
  • It takes a lot of hard work and dedication to prove your talent and to build a solid reputation
  • A fashion designers schedule is not set in stone, so they must be flexible
  • The fashion industry is quite competitive. Therefore, it takes perseverance and often the right connections to hit it big

Employability

Job market

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the overall employment of fashion designers is projected to decline from 2019 to 2029. This decline in employment is expected because clothing will continue to be produced internationally. As a result, employment of fashion designers in the clothing manufacturing industry is expected to decline over the decade.

To have the best possible chances, applicants should have a formal education in fashion design, be proficient in technologies such as CAD, have excellent portfolios and have industry experience. Yet, there will always be strong competition because typically a large number of people seek employment as fashion designers.

Career paths

Most commonly, fashion designers will achieve a bachelor’s degree in fashion design or fashion merchandising. During these programs, aspiring fashion students will learn about textiles and fabrics and how to use computer-aided design (CAD) technology. They also work on projects they can add to their portfolio, which showcases their designs.

The National Association of Schools of Art and Design accredits more than 360 postsecondary institutions with programs in art and design, and many of them award degrees in fashion design. These schools often require students to have completed basic art and design courses before entering a program. Applicants usually must submit sketches and other examples of their artistic ability.

Like all creative professions, developing a portfolio is essential as employers rely on these to gauge talents and creativity. Fashion students will be given plenty of opportunities to develop their portfolios further by entering their designs in student or amateur contests.

After completing their degree, fashion designers can go on to work for well-known companies, for more ready-to-wear retailers, for smaller boutiques, or for themselves with a private label.

Example Job Titles for Fashion Designer

Below is a list of common job titles in the Fashion Designer field. Click the links below for more information about these job titles, or view the next section for actual real-life job profiles.

Benefits & Conditions

Income and benefits

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the median annual wage for fashion designers was $73,790 in May 2019. The lowest 10 percent earned less than $37,260 and the highest 10 percent earned more than $149,010. The motion picture and video industry was the top paying industry, with a median annual wage of $80,140. This was followed by management of companies and enterprises ($79,420), apparel manufacturing ($73,600) and apparel, piece goods and notions merchant wholesalers ($73,060).

Autonomy and Flexibility

A fashion designer often have control over their designs. They get to pick the fabrics, the fit, style and manufacturing process. However, the ultimate decisions comes down to: 1) the trends they predict; and 2) the creative director. This means that in some cases, autonomy on a designers final decision can be low. Similarly, a fashion designers schedule is likely to be at the mercy of the company they work for and the deadlines they need to meet. Therefore, their flexibility is likely to be low.

Locations and commute

Due to the competitive nature of the work, it is not uncommon for fashion designers to relocate to seek better job opportunities. According to Zippia, the best states to be a fashion designer, based on number of jobs available and average annual salary, are:

  1. Washington, where the average annual salary was $69,560
  2. Oregon, where the average annual salary was $66,815
  3. Alaska, where the average annual salary was $103,973
  4. Utah, where the average annual salary was $66,373
  5. Colorado, where the average annual salary was $58,178

According to Zippia, the worst states to be a fashion designer are Florida, Wisconsin, Maine, Indiana and Hawaii.

Work environment

The largest employers of fashion designer in the United States was the apparel, piece goods and notions merchant wholesalers, which employed 29% of all fashion designer. 22% of fashion designers are self-employed, 13% are employed by management of companies and enterprises, 11% by motion pictures and video industries and 7% for apparel manufacturing.

Many fashion designers work in-house for wholesalers or manufacturers which sell clothing and accessories to retailers or other marketers for distribution to individual stores, catalog companies, or online retailers.

The 22% of self-employed fashion designers typically create high-fashion garments or custom clothes. In some cases, a self-employed fashion designer may have a clothing line that bears his or her name.

Career Satisfaction

Common Matching Personality Types

Which personalities tend to succeed and thrive in Fashion Designer careers? Based on our research, there is a relatively strong positive correlation between the following personality types and Fashion Designer career satisfaction. This doesn’t mean that there aren’t many exceptions, of course, but if you fit into one of the following personality types then we suggest you give strong consideration to a career in Fashion Designer.

16 Types (Myers-Briggs)

Big Five (OCEAN)

Enneagram

Holland Codes (RIASEC)

Personality types

Fashion designers usually have creative and intuitive personalities. They use innovation to express style and must be confident and enterprising to get ahead and thrive in such a competitive market. It is common for people to wonder if they have the right ‘vibe’ to become a fashion designer. If you enjoy drawing and have an eye for detail, this is a great career option.

Accomplishment and mastery

Fashion design is an incredibly competitive market. Therefore, those designers who thrive in the industry are likely to feel a huge sense of accomplishment and mastery. What is more, is that every time a designers clothes makes it to production or to a runway, they will feel a sense of pride and accomplishment.

Meaning and contribution

In our modern day society, we all need to wear clothes for practicality, fashion and modesty. In this sense, the work of a fashion designer has high meaning and contribution. Furthermore, designers who work on sustainability and slow fashion have high meaning and contribution to the environment.

Life fit

Fashion design can provide a difficult life fit. Most designers travel several times a year to trade and fashion shows to learn about the latest trends. Designers may also sometimes travel to other countries to meet suppliers of materials and manufacturers who make the final products. On top of this, designers may have to work long hours on many occasions in order to meet production deadlines or prepare for fashion shows.

Who will thrive in this career?

To be a successful fashion designer, you should possess good visualization skills and have some business sense too. Thriving fashion designer are also excellent multi-tasker and are willing to accept, and learn from, criticism and rejection. Overall, this career path is ideal for an artistic person who enjoys expression through wearable art.

Who will struggle in this career?

Obviously, those who are not naturally creative or have a passion for fashion will struggle in this career.  Similarly, those who prefer to work a stable 9-5 might struggle with the long hours and travel commitments required from fashion designers. In fact, unless you are genuinely passionate and enthusiastic about fashion (and have the talent for it) then you will struggle with the competitive and unstable world of fashion design and merchandising!

Requirements

Skills and talents

The main skill that a fashion designer will need is to be creative and talented at fashion design. They will demonstrate this talent in a portfolio, which will be viewed by potential employers. As well as creativity, fashion designers will also need skills such as:

  • Business management skills, as fashion designers will need to stay within budget and market their clothing designs
  • Communication and interpersonal skills, as fashion designers will need to give instructions to others on how to make their clothes. They will also need to communicate their vision to creative directors
  • Competitive spirit, as the fashion industry is competitive and fashion designers need to be able to compete in this field
  • Artistic ability and vision, as fashion designers must be able to draw sketches that effectively capture their vision
  • Sewing skills, as fashion designers will need to construct their sample garments to show to creative directors and manufacturers
  • Attention to detail, as fashion designers must be able to notice small differences in color and detail that will make a huge difference to the success of a design.

Education

Fashion designers need a bachelor’s degree in fashion design or merchandising that is accredited by The National Association of Schools of Art and Design. During these program, fashion students will learn about textiles, fabrics and how to use computer-aided design (CAD) technology. They also work on projects they can add to their portfolio, which showcases their designs, talent and creativity to potential employers.

Certifications

There are no specific certifications or licensure needed to be a fashion designer in the United States.

How to Become

Summary

A career as a fashion designer is glamorous, fast-paced and competitive. It is an excellent choice for those who are creative, confident and talented.

Fashion designers are responsible for all things fashion! They create original, unique and on trend clothing, accessories and footwear. They will research and predict fashion trends, sketch designs, select fabrics and patterns, review samples and give instructions on how to make the products. They can speclialize in clothing, footwear or accessories. Or, they may create designs for all three.

Immediate action

Before getting accepted onto a fashion degree program, students will need to have completed basic art and design courses. So, if you are thinking of becoming a fashion designer, then it is worth finding some local courses. You will also need to submit sketches to postsecondary institutions in order to secure a space, so get practicing your drawing!

Education and learning

Most fashion designers will achieve a bachelors degree in fashion design or fashion merchandising that is accredited by The National Association of Schools of Art and Design.

Skill development

The fashion industry is constantly growing and adapting. With this changing industry, comes a requirement for fashion designers to constantly adapt and renew their skills. Designers may take additional training, or with more experience their skills may become more advanced.

FAQs

Ask a Question

Have a question about Fashion Designer careers? If so, our mentors would love to help! Just click on a mentor’s profile below and then fill out the “Ask a Question” form on that page. Your question will then be emailed to the mentor, who can then email you a reply.

ID Job Title Gender Age Earnings City & State Date
32984 Designer Male 50 $30,000 Brooklyn, NY 01/01/2010

Resources